Networks Lobbying Commission on Presidential Debates Over Moderators, Formats

By Mark Joyella 

After a season of at times raucous presidential debates, the planning is underway this week for the fall debates that will feature the Republican and Democratic nominees and their running mates.

The Commission on Presidential Debates will host three presidential and one vice presidential debate, but the format of the debates–and how to bring voters into the process–is part of the discussion that’s underway. “We have had over the years what we call the town hall formats. So we’ve had a format in which average citizens ask questions of the candidates,” CPD co-chair Mike McCurry told Politico. “But social media gives you many more possibilities to engage more people in that sort of conversation. So we’ve been thinking how do we incorporate that into format of the debate. So we’ve had some good conversations on that.”

The commissioners are considering a format that would include crowdsourced questions, with moderators choosing from questions with the most votes.

As for who’s going to moderate the debates, and which networks will host them, McCurry said nothing’s been decided–but the networks have been lobbying. In 2012, PBS’ Jim Lehrer moderated the first debate, ABC’s Martha Raddatz moderated the vice presidential debate, and the last two debates were moderated by CNN’s Candy Crowley and CBS’ Bob Schieffer.

This year, the CPD is considering widening the traditional pool of potential moderators to include people beyond television. “The explosion of sites on the Internet that are nontraditional sources, they move beyond traditional mainstream media is a very significant development. And so many people, particularly younger people, are getting information from nontraditional new sources. We certainly want to invite them into the process,” McCurry said.